Our community’s need for a renewable future
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rock in order to create cracks in underground rock formations and release oil or gas deposits. This practice is extremely risky and poses a number of threats to human and environmental health. The overwhelming balance of scientific research to date points to these risks, with recent studies revealing a worrying pattern of underreporting of issues by industry and regulators in Pennsylvania, BC and Alberta.
The process of fracking uses a significant amount of water, and can also contaminate drinking water through a leakage of chemicals into water tables. Methane emissions from fracking wells have recently been found to be massively underreported by industry, provincial and state regulators – a fact that is especially worrying given methane is a green house gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Fracking has also been known to cause earthquakes. The numerous threats that are posed by fracking have lead many community members and activists to protest the practice in their communities. In 2014, a bill was passed here in Nova Scotia legally banning fracking This was accomplished after community residents, primarily lead by indigenous individuals, rose up against fracking and disseminated critical information about the danger it poses to humans and the environment. This ban has been in place ever since.
Earlier this year, however, the municipality of Guysborough called for this ban to be lifted and proceeded to send multiple letters to the Premier and to other municipal councils throughout Nova Scotia, looking for support. This decision however, is not supported by most citizens; when one of Guysborough’s councilors held a town hall meeting on the issue, all those who attended were opposed the lifting of the ban.
Guysborough’s decision to propose this change comes with pressure from oil and gas supporters who used a freedom of information request to bring to light a provincial atlas of potential shell gas reserves in Nova Scotia. The Nova Scotia department of energy subsequently released an atlas that showed potential energy hot spots in the province, none of which are in Guysborough county. The Guysborough letter, therefore, seems to be more a part of an orchestrated campaign by the oil and gas sector rather than something that would actually lead to fracking in the county.
It turns out that a municipality site for an liquified natural gas (LNG) plant is being built in Guysborough county, a site where gas from around the continent will be held and distributed to markets in Europe. Germany has guaranteed a 4 billion dollar loan for the building of this plant as the country wishes to diversify where it is getting it’s LNG. Although, the plant does not need to use gas that is harvested in Nova Scotia, oil and gas supporters are pushing to have these options available, by pushing for the lifting of the ban on fracking.
Those who support the ban include many across Mi’kma’ki, including Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, that come from indigenous and settler communities alike. As we know, Mi’kmaq land has never been ceded to settlers and thus the Mi’kmaq people have a strong say when it comes to practices that will affect the land. The critical analysis developed by many Mi’kmaq people is that while the fracking industry may bring jobs to this area of the country, it will also destroy natural elements such as water and land, that are sacred and important to indigenous ways of being, and to all life. The choice to propose a lifting of this ban, directly contradicts the concerns that have been presented by indigenous community members and settler-citizens alike. Communities throughout Nova Scotia have made it clear that they are completely against fracking. In 2014, when a fracking moratorium was being reviewed, the Nova Scotia association of Mi’kmaq chiefs unanimously voted against it along with the Mi’kmaq Native women’s association. So far, the conversation that has been held about lifting the ban has only been orchestrated in settler communities. The Guysborough effort therefore runs the risk of further damaging settler-indigenous relations in a time that these relations should be focusing on reconciliation.
On March 19, the Antigonish Town Council has planned to discuss the letter that they received from the Municipality of Guysborough and will be debating whether they too will call for the ban to be lifted. Responsible Energy Action (REA) has been organizing to encourage citizens to write to the mayor and town councilors in support of keeping the ban in place. If you are interested and having your voice heard in relation to this cause, I encourage you to do the same and email mayor Laurie Boucher.
The bottom line is that these conversations should be outdated; there is a strong understanding that we need to be moving towards the dismantling of the oil and gas sector and incorporating more renewable sources of energy. In California, for instance, the green energy sector is proving that transition to green energy is a major job creator. We need to be encouraging the promotion of Solar and Wind power and put our money towards getting more sustainable and safe energy sources up and running in our province. And we should be working in ways that respect the treaties here and reinforce reconciliation, not undermine it.